What Is a Criminal Defense Lawyer What is a criminal defense lawyer? He or she is a legal professional who organizes a case in order to represent a client who is accused of a crime. These crimes include sex, drug and violent offenses which are things that are not approved by society as seen in this country's laws. The job now of the criminal defense lawyer is to fight for the client by defending the client in open court in a jury of their peers. In some cases, this person is successful when the jury gives a verdict of not guilty. Other times, the jury will say that the accused is guilty. If the jury does not have a unanimous decision, the judge has no choice but to call for a retrial. Should there by a mistake made in the trial such as the selection of the jury, the judge will say that it is a mistrial and once again, both sides will have to start over and present their case. There are instances where the criminal defense lawyer and the prosecutor don't have to settle this matter in court. This may happen as both sides have an agreement and this is approved by the judge. But how does this all happen? First, a crime has to be committed. Law enforcement authorities will then have to figure out what happen and if they have enough evidence, a suspect is arrested. The person who is arrested has the right to remain silent during questioning until their lawyer is present. If the person cannot afford one, then a lawyer will be provided so even those who don't have money will be properly represented. The sixth amendment in the bill of rights state that anyone who is arrested has the right to a speedy trial and this has to be done where the crime was committed. After being arraigned, the criminal defense lawyer will now conduct an investigation by interviewing witnesses, reviewing police reports and any other evidence that is related to the case. The suspect that is charged with the crime can only be convicted if the case presented by the district attorney's office is very convincing. This means that a criminal defense lawyer can get a not guilty verdict by putting holes into the defense of the prosecution. When this happens, the client is freed. Should things go the other away, the criminal defense lawyer can make an appeal to the higher court regarding the lower court's conviction. Can anyone become a criminal defense lawyer? A lot of experts say no because unlike other specializations in the practice, some find it very intimidating especially when the client that you have to represent is actually guilty of the crime. But given that you are that person's attorney, it is your duty to defend the accused to the best of your ability from start to finish. Given that crime of all sorts and nature occur, some have set up their own law firms that specialize in criminal law. Most who graduate from law school work for the government and are often referred to as "public defenders." How much you earn as a criminal defense lawyer varies. This depends mainly who your client is because if you are defending a millionaire, you can charge a lot for your legal fees while someone who doesn't earn much will be able to only give how much is in their wallet. What a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Do For You If you are accused of a crime, the only person that can help you out is a criminal defense attorney. This is because you are not familiar with how the judiciary system works which makes it hard for you to represent yourself in open court. This is because a lot of the legal rules are hidden away in court interpretations of federal and state constitutions. A good example is whether or not the search of your home was reasonable. It can only be considered a good search if the police obtained a warrant otherwise anything found is not admissible in court. Given that the criminal defense lawyer has crossed swords with the prosecution in the past, they are already familiar with the tactics that the opposing party will be using and be prepared for it. As you can see, it is a very specialized field and there are many things that need to be checked out by your criminal defense lawyer before you are given a guilty or not guilty verdict. When your case has been given to them, you will be asked what happened. You will have to give your version of the events that took place. After listening, they will provide you with a reality check especially what will happen should the case go to trial. They will then review the police report, interview witnesses and examine the evidence. Since it is hard to look at everything on their own, they sometimes have researchers do it. When you are arraigned in court, you are required to submit a plea. You could plead guilty or not guilty while some do not give one yet and then prepare for the trial date. If the evidence against you is overwhelming, perhaps your criminal defense lawyer can negotiate so you can get a lighter sentence or reduced charges. This can only happen if this is your first time or you have a criminal record and you have something to trade. For those who want to go to trail, the criminal defense lawyer will now prepare your defense. This may sometimes mean taking up your stand and telling the court the events that took place. This may be risky so before hand, you will be briefed on what to say. Witnesses will be presented. Some of these people will be able to aid in your defense while others will be against you so another job that the criminal defense lawyer will do is cross examine them in order to cast doubt in the testimony they are giving. The trial is almost over when the criminal defense lawyer and the prosecution give their closing arguments. The jury will then be given time to deliberate the case so you will know the verdict when they come back into the court and read it. If you get a not guilty verdict, the criminal defense lawyer was able to do their job since you are a free man. But if you are guilty, then the next step is to appeal the decision to a higher court and hopefully, they will overturn that decision. What a criminal defense lawyer does is not easy because the person they are helping out could commit a similar crime again or even worse in the future. Sadly, this is how the justice system works because everyone has a right to counsel and tried before their peers. The Criminal Defense Lawyer Association Each state has its own criminal defense lawyer association. This organization sees to it that anyone who is accused of a crime is given fair representation in a court of law. They also do their share in protecting and strengthening the constitution, improving the administration of justice and promoting public awareness of the function and duties of criminal defense lawyers. One way they are doing that is by offering legal services to those who cannot afford to hire a top notch lawyer. Some call them public defenders that will do their best to protect your rights. Aside from providing their services to clients, they also have other activities such as conduct seminars for its members, raise money and offer scholarships. Each association is governed by a board which plans the events for the year that includes publishing newsletters, formal and informal networking and continuing legal education. The criminal defense lawyer association through its members also lobbies and obtains information about new legislation as this affects their practice whenever they have to help a client in open court. For those who are not yet members, all they have to do is fill up a form. Law students may already apply and after paying the membership fee, they will be able to access information about legal matters that are only available to members. Apart from state criminal lawyer associations, there is a bigger one called the National Lawyer Association. What they do here is not that different from what they do on the state level. As a member, you get assess to online research, virtual office opportunities, lawyer referral service, membership benefits and services as well as immediate leadership opportunities in legal sections and committees. The best part is that you don't have to leave your state's association to become a member in the national level. The advantage of being a member of a criminal defense lawyer association is that anyone who wants to seek your services will no longer question your capability as a lawyer because you have already proven yourself among your colleagues. How? By being granted membership into the organization which means they recognize you as an equal. What potential clients will likely ask now is how many cases have you won and how many times have you argued this in court. When you talk to a client, tell them straight out they you cannot guarantee that you can win their case. What you can promise though is that you will do your best to help them get out of this mess. So what should you do if you have a legal problem and have no idea who to call? The best thing to do will be to get the number of the criminal defense lawyer association in your state so you can get the name of a lawyer who can help you out. If you can't find it, look for it online because most of these have an official website with a list of their current members and their contact numbers. Initial consultation is usually free and if you are satisfied, then you should hire this person immediately so your legal woes will be straightened out. The best part is that you don't have to worry about paying for high legal fees since this organization has ways of getting the necessary funds to pay for their members. Selecting a Criminal Defense Lawyer In basketball, they say that a good defense is the best offense. The same goes when you have to go to trial because your life is on the line and the only way to prevent yourself from going to jail is by selecting a criminal defense lawyer who will be able to represent you when the evidence is presented. Criminal defense lawyers are a special breed of individuals because they specialize in criminal law. Some of these people represent those who are guilty and will do everything in their power to make sure their client does not go to jail. But how do you select a criminal defense lawyer? For that, you have to find someone who specializes in this field. If you don't know any, ask your friends or family for help. When you see them for the first time, this is not a social call but business. You should ask them straight out how long has he or she practiced criminal law, the number of cases that went to trial and how many times have they won. Do a background check on the criminal defense lawyer. Find out if they belong to any legal organizations like the County or State Bar Associations. If this person is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, then chances are you are already in good hands. But since this is not enough, find out if they will have the time to work on your case because you could lose it if they are not able to provide a good defense. You should also find out how much they charge for their legal fees and if they will be the one who will personally handle your case. If they are asking you for a large sum of money up front, leave the office and find someone else right away. If you find the rate reasonable and feel comfortable talking to this person, then by all means hire this individual to be your criminal defense attorney. Now discuss your case and then follow whatever instructions are given. This person should be able to explain to you how things will go and what they will do. The ideal criminal defense lawyer is the public defender because this is what they do day in and day out. Although they usually get a bad rap, they are very experienced when it comes to going to court which is why they are often used as consultants by private attorneys. Some have even left and established their own firms specializing in criminal law. Will this guarantee that you will win your day in court? Of course not. Nobody can guarantee that even if you can afford hiring a very rich attorney. This all boils down to how well this person will be able to cast doubt on the evidence used by the prosecution because you will only get a guilty verdict if they can prove beyond reasonable doubt that you are indeed responsible for the crime. Selecting a criminal defense lawyer is crucial because not be able to get a good defense will likely get you a guilty verdict. You can prevent that form happening since you are given time to look for one before you are arraigned and asked how do you plead in front of the judge. Life as a Criminal Defense Lawyer Life as a criminal defense lawyer is not easy when your job is basically to help those who are arrested of a crime. While some of the clients you meet are innocent, many of them are guilty and have had previous run-ins with the law. Since the law dictates that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and you decided to specialize in this field, you have to defend this person by putting up the best defense there is available. There are various strategies you can use to get your client off. You can plead insanity or claim that someone else did the crime. If your client has something to offer, you can make a deal with the district attorney in exchange for the client being granted immunity. But before you decide what cards to play, you have to talk to your client. If this person is in jail, you have to go there and ask what happened. You should already discuss whether to enter a guilty or not guilty plea because your client will be arraigned shortly. When a trial date has been set, you can get a copy of the documents of the case from the district attorney's office because by law, both sides are supposed to view everything from the police reports to the evidence. You will also get a copy of the people the prosecution will be calling to the witness stand as they too will also be aware of that so there will be no surprises during trial. When it is your turn to cross examine the witness, you should use whatever is available to cast doubt on their testimony because this is the only way that the jury may be convinced that your client is not capable of doing the crime. Using expert witnesses of your own is also helpful since they can dispute the claims of the other camp. Before the jury will reach its verdict, you will have one last chance to state your client's innocence when you are given the opportunity for your closing argument. When it is all over, you just have to wait for the decision of the court to take the next course of action. Your client's not guilty verdict means your job is done and you can move on and work with another client. A guilty verdict means you have to stay on as counsel for this individual and appeal the jury's decision to a higher court so you can perhaps get a reversal. The best way to win an appeal is to determine if there is something in the trial that shouldn't have happened or was overlooked. These technicalities are better known as constitutional protections. For instance, the client's confession was taken without the presence of a lawyer so whatever they said is inadmissible in court. The same goes if a search was done without a warrant. There are many examples which you can use. You may even cite a case with similar circumstances because this serves as precedence to the one you are working on. The life of a criminal defense lawyer is challenging no matter how many times you have been inside the court room. This is because you get to work with different clients each time since someone who was innocent can no longer be charged with the same offense because of the principle of double jeopardy.
How to Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer When you are arrested for a crime, the only thing that can only help get out of a jam is with the help of a criminal defense lawyer. You can choose who wants to represent you which shouldn't be a problem if you have money but if you don't, you will have to settle with whoever the court appoints for you. But for those who can hire one, here are a few tips to help you select a professional. First, when you meet the criminal defense lawyer, you should ask how long has he or she been practicing criminal law and also how many cases did they win. Surely you don't want to work with a lawyer who is fresh out of college or has never won a case. You also don't want to work with someone who chooses to settle the matter out of court very often because you will probably get the shorter end of the stick when you decide to go for the plea bargain. The more years of experience this person has, the better because this professional should already know the ins and outs of the judicial system. That person may have already dealt with the prosecution in the past and knows how to get a winning verdict. You should also check if the lawyer that is representing you is certified Criminal attorney. This will save you the time of asking how long this person has been in the practice because getting such recognition means you have actively participated in 100 cases involving the taking of testimony. Naturally, you have to be comfortable with the criminal defense lawyer who will be representing you in the case. He or she should be able to give you updates like when is the trial, what strategy will be used during trial and other matters that may help make the outcome go in your favor. Since you are already in your office, be sure that the criminal defense lawyer you are speaking with will be the one who will actually defending you and not handed over to another person in the firm. Given that the practice of criminal defense work is their bread and butter, you should also discuss the fee arrangements. Some lawyers charge a flat fee while others do it on an hourly basis. It is better to get a flat fee so you are not charged every time you have to consult your lawyer over the phone or in person. You should also find out if this already covers the case should this go to trial. While the criminal defense lawyer will do their share to maintain your innocence, you should also do your share so this can happen. You do this by cooperating with them so they will be able to come up with a good defense. The best criminal defense lawyer to get is the one who is experienced. After all, a criminal trial may last weeks or even months before a verdict is reached. This may cost you a great amount of money but if you get a not guilty verdict from the jury, it is surely worth every penny so you can move on with your life instead of spending the rest of it behind bars. How Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do Their Job Everyone has their day in court. This means that even if the client is guilty, the criminal defense lawyer must do whatever is necessary so that person will not be convicted of the crime. How does that work? If you are a public defender, the client will be appointed and you have to meet with them. Before this person is arraigned in court, you will have time to discuss what will be their plea which will then be presented to the judge. Afterwards, ample time will be given so you can conduct an investigation, review police reports and examine the evidence to prepare you for trial. During the trial, both sides will be able to present witnesses. Some of these are experts and after the prosecution questions this person on the stand, you will have the chance to cross-examine them and vice versa. Before the trial starts or even during, you can try to settle this matter out of court. You have the right to accept or turn it down but you must first discuss this with your client. When all the witnesses have spoken and the evidence has been presented, the only thing you have to work on now is your closing argument. You should summarize everything that has happened in front of the jury because the prosecution will do the same so the jury can now go to the jury room and make their decision. How long will the jury will be deliberating is anyone's guess. Sometimes a verdict will be announced in less than hour while others will take longer. When the jury has returned, you will know if the jury has reached a guilty or not guilty verdict. If the verdict is guilty, then you can appeal the decision to the higher court. If the verdict is not guilty, then your client can walk out of the court room as a free man. The same thing happens when you are working for or have your own criminal defense law firm. The only difference is that clients will go up to you. When they walk in, they will want to interview you first to find out a little about you. You should be ready to answer questions such as how long have you been a criminal defense attorney, how many cases have you won, do you go to trial often or decide to settle this matter out of court and so on. How you answer will help them decide if they want to hire you or not. Another difference between those who operate privately is that you can charge a certain fee for your legal services. You can charge a flat fee or on an hourly basis. This depends on you. If you are handling a lot of cases right now, be honest with the client and tell them you can't because you will not be able to represent them to the fullest of your ability in that condition. So how do you a criminal defense attorney do their job? By operating on the assumption that anyone who is arrested is innocent until proven guilty. This is hard especially if you know your client did it but this is your duty as a public defender. You failure to do so will mean this person will spend the rest of their time in jail. Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer for a DUI Charge Ever been pulled over on a DUI charge? Yes this happens but you can beat the system with the help of a criminal defense lawyer. Drinking under the influence of DUI requires fast action on your part so that your license will not be suspended. The first thing you have to do of course is hire a lawyer so you can immediately be released from jail. In some cases, this does not happen because you are released on your own recognizance. However, some will require you to post bail which your lawyer can take care of. Once released, it is now time to address this issue. In some states, a DUI charge generates 2 separate cases. The first is filed with the Department of Motor Vehicles while the other is a criminal court case. When faced with this problem, you have to face these charges within ten days from the date of the arrest. Just like any other criminal case, this begins with your arraignment. You will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Chances are, your criminal defense lawyer will tell you to plead not guilty to these charges. This will give him or her time to review the facts of the case so your defense will be established. There are many strategies available that your lawyer can use to you get out of a DUI and have proven to be successful. Your lawyer may for example argue lack of probably cause for the initial stop. This means there was no reason at all to stop you and if that is the case, submit a petition to suppress any evidence that the police obtained when you were pulled over. It is also possible to argue faulty of unreliable BAC results. The BAC stands for blood alcohol test which is used to test if the person's alcohol level has reached the maximum limit which makes him or her unsafe to drive a vehicle. The results could be faulty if your lawyer can prove that the test was not properly administered, the equipment used was not properly maintained or you have a medical condition that may have an impact on the reliability of the test. Another tactic is to attack the credibility of the arresting officer. If your lawyer is able to question the police officer and prove there are inconsistencies in their testimony compared with the police report they filed, you just might have a chance of getting a not guilty verdict. But if things are not working in your favor and everything was done by the book, then your criminal defense lawyer may advise you to accept a favorable plea agreement. Doing so may get you reduced charges or sentencing concessions with the district attorney. If you don't want to negotiate and decide to gamble in court and lose, then you can try to appeal the court's decision. If you don't, there will likely be an increase in your insurance cost, limits on employment options and you will now have a permanent record. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer is the only way to get out of a DUI charge. After all, there are circumstances which you can argue so that you name will not be included in the criminal database system. A Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You Defend Against Murder Charges Murder is one of the harshest things you can ever be charged with. If you are arrested for the crime, it won't be long before you will be charged in court for the crime but you can prove your innocence with the help of a criminal defense lawyer. When you are brought in for questioning, the first thing you have to do is ask for a lawyer. If you can't afford one, don't worry because a state appointed lawyer will be assigned to you. But if you have money, it is best to hire a private attorney since they have better success rates than public defenders. Once counsel is present, work with them so you can come up with a defense strategy. You will have to tell them exactly what happened. If you really committed the crime, they can argue that there are circumstances which made you do it. It is possible that you killed the person by reason of self-defense or possibly you were temporarily insane. If you do this, you will be examined by a psychiatrist because some people fake it. You will shortly be arraigned so a trial date can be set so you should already enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Days before trial, your defense lawyer should already work on a plan to create reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury. He or she may hire expert witnesses to testify on your behalf, present strong counter arguments and attack weaknesses in the prosecution's argument. Since your lawyer will have a chance to see what will be used in the case, he or she may be able to suppress certain evidence if this was obtained illegally. This may sometimes get a guilty person off on a technicality but this is all part of the judicial process. On your part, the only thing you have to do is behave yourself during the entire court proceedings because your lawyer will be the only one doing the talking. Better yet, behave in a way that will make the jury think twice if you are capable of doing such a heinous crime. The objective in a criminal trial is to cast reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury so no matter how many witnesses are called to testify or what evidence is presented, you have a good chance of getting a not guilty verdict. But if things do not work out, then you can appeal the decision of the court. You can avoid going to court if you decide to negotiate with the prosecution. For instance, if there were other people involved in the crime, you can testify against the others in exchange for immunity or a lesser charge. You should consider this option if ever it is presented to you. If the evidence is overwhelming, perhaps you should just plead guilty because if you are convicted, some states will sentence you to face the death penalty. Doing so will probably get you life imprisonment probably with no chance of parole. A criminal defense lawyer is the only person who will be able to help you if ever you are charged with murder. It is only by cooperating with this person that will prevent you from spending the rest of your days in prison. A Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You Defend Against a Misdemeanor Charge A misdemeanor isn't as heavy as other crimes but you can be charged for it and this will become part of your permanent record. Fortunately, you can fight it with the help of a criminal defense lawyer. When you are charted with a misdemeanor, you are given a citation which states the date and time that you will appear in court. Do you have to see a lawyer? Some people do so immediately so they can be guided throughout the process. For that, you have to hire one. Surely you can get somebody because if you don't, a state appointed lawyer will be the one to help you but they don't do that well compared to private counsel. For you to quality a state appointed counsel, you will have to fill up a form. You will also be required to reimburse the state for the legal services of the public defender. When you finally hire a lawyer, tell them what happened because only then will they be able to figure out a strategy to help you out. For instance, your lawyer can argue that illegal items that were found in your possession were planted. If that is the case, during the arraignment proceedings, you will enter a plea of not guilty. What is the difference between a plea of guilty and not guilty? If you enter a guilty plea, you give up the right to a trial since you admit to the crime. However, when you plead not guilty, you will stand trial and the jury will decide whether or not you are really guilty of the crime. Here, the prosecution will be bringing in witnesses, police reports and the evidence. Your criminal defense lawyer will have the chance here to dispute the findings and if he or she is successful, reasonable doubt is achieved and your chances of getting a not guilty verdict become higher. Once the closing arguments are made, the jury will now deliberate. If you are found to be not guilty, then you walk. But if you are guilty, then you will be sentenced shortly which may mean paying a fine, spending some time in jail, doing community service and placed on probation. You can appeal your case of course which will be done by your criminal defense lawyer. The objective in this proceeding is to get you a not guilty verdict so you don't have to spend time in jail. However, if you are guilty and given the option to make a deal, perhaps you should take it. The process of facing a misdemeanor charge is the same even if you are below 18 years of age. The only difference is that a parent or guardian is also present together with your lawyer when you have to face the judge. Since being charged with a misdemeanor isn't that serious, some people decide to represent themselves. If you decide to do this, make sure you are familiar with the law and the procedures involved in your case because during trial, no one will help you or advise you on what you should do. But if are not sure how the legal process goes, why trouble yourself when you can hire a criminal defense lawyer who does this for a living.
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